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Partials (Partials Sequence) Hardcover – February 28, 2012
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Dan Wells is the acclaimed author of the John Cleaver series: I Am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, and I Don’t Want to Kill You. He has been nominated for both the Hugo and the Campbell Award and has won two Parsec Awards for his podcast Writing Excuses. Robison Wells, Dan’s younger brother, is the author of Variant, which Publishers Weekly called “a chilling, masterful debut” in a starred review, and its sequel, Feedback (available Fall 2012). Here, Robison interviews his brother about Partials, Dan’s pulse-pounding first book in his post-apocalyptic series that questions the very concept of what it means to be human.
Robison: Dan is my brother, exactly 13 months older than me. He and I shared a room our entire childhood, took the same classes, even dated the same girls. Dan got me into writing about twelve years ago, and ever since we’ve critiqued each other’s work, brainstormed new ideas, and told each other how terrible he is. So, with such a long background together, I’m particularly interested to see if I can learn anything new in this interview.
I’ve read so much of your writing over the years, from your poem about turkeys in the fifth grade to your first epic fantasy to your literary farce to your horror, and now your YA post-apocalyptic Partials. Is there anything you’ve written that I’d be surprised to hear about?
Dan: I wrote some Rifts fan fiction in high school—I don’t know if you knew about that. I actually reused a part of it for Partials.
Dan: I won’t say, but it’s in the first third.
Robison: You’ve written in all these different genres: Is it because you’re still looking for the perfect fit? Or are you just interested in writing lots of different things?
Dan: Almost every book I write is a new genre, or a weird combination of genres, because I like to branch out and try new things. I never would have imagined that I’d write a horror series, but that was the first book I published. I never would have found that character, or the audience that loves him, if I’d forced myself to stick to one thing.
Robison: How was the transition from supernatural to sci-fi?
Dan: Not too bad, since I see them as very connected—the only real difference between fantasy and SF is the explanation of where the weird stuff comes from. SF ended up being a lot harder, in some ways, because I had to make those explanations scientifically sound. In my horror series I could just say, “It’s a monster!” With SF I had to do a ton of research into genetics, biology, and the science of decay.
Robison: How did you do your research?
Dan: A lot of my research started online, including Wikipedia—people make fun of it as a research tool, and I admit that it’s a terrible place to end your research, but it’s a fantastic place to start. From there I found more detailed websites, and eventually some great connections to books. One of the most useful books I read was The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, about what would happen to the things we leave behind if we suddenly weren’t there to take care of them. It’s a very detailed combination of scientific research and thought experiment.
In Partials, the apocalypse wasn’t a bomb or a war or anything physically destructive, just a disease: We died, but all our stuff is still just sitting there. It was a fun situation to study, and a blast to depict in a book.
Robison: So, having done all that research, what tips would you give for surviving an apocalyptic pandemic? Let’s assume you’re immune to the virus.
Dan: I don’t know how you’re going to work that out, but there you go. Once you have that taken care of, you live in a combination of paradise and medieval squalor. You will have no electricity or running water, but almost everything else will be free. Canned food can last for a decade or more before going bad, so you can live at a subsistence level just by scavenging the local stores.
Robison: Why do you think your society of survivors ended up being organized and civil and less Mad Max-ish?
Dan: A big part of it is the scarcity issue. Mad Max and similar apocalyptic scenarios start with the premise that everything is destroyed. The survivors have to fight tooth and nail for what little resources are left. In Partials, everything you could ever want is just there for the taking.
Robison: What books/movies/music/TV influenced Partials?
Dan: Some of the influences are obvious, like Battlestar Galactica and Children of Men. Others are harder to spot. I listened to a steady diet of protest songs and revolutionary music while writing, stuff like “Uprising” by Muse, because they got my blood going and helped me get into the main character’s fiery personality. And some of my influences didn’t really end up in the book, though I still count them—things like Mad Max and A Canticle for Leibowitz that inspired my love of post-apocalyptic stories, but which didn’t really apply in this case.
The biggest influence may have been our own history and current events. Partials is, at times, a very angry book, and that’s a reflection of my own feelings about a lot of the stuff I see going on in the world.
Robison: Let’s talk about that. You’ve said before that you think one of the reasons dystopia is so popular right now is because our world is becoming more dystopian. What current events influenced you in Partials?
Dan: For example, the story is set eleven years after a devastating catastrophe—and in 2012, my readers are also eleven years after their own devastating catastrophe. The events of 9/11 changed the way we do almost everything in this country, and to a lesser extent the rest of the world. One of the things I tried to do in the book was show that the adults, who remember what life was like before the end of the world, have a very different attitude about it than the kids who’ve never really known any other life.
I also tried to throw in a lot of the extreme measures our government and our culture in general have taken in response to terrorism—reduced privacy, indefinite detention, torture, and so on. I think there are arguments on both sides of all these issues, and I tried to give each side a fair shake. Kira, the main character, has very strong ideas about what’s justifiable and what’s not, and just because she’s the main character doesn’t mean she’s always right. If anyone’s actually “right” at all.
Robison: So, on a happier note, why do you think I’m so awesome?
Dan: Because you take after your brother.
Top Customer Reviews
- Had it not been for the cover blurb and the cover illustration, I wouldn't have realized this was a YA-targeted book until a good portion of the way into the story. First off, the characters are expected to behave and act like adults in this brave, new world...so most of the teen angst nonsense so prevalent in many YA books is simply not here at all. Also the author presumes the intelligence of his readers...nothing gets "dumbed down" and the science and technology in the book are fairly detailed and sophisticated. The author also doesn't pull any punches when it comes to presenting the reality of a world in which the human race is rapidly heading towards extinction...there are some uncomfortable truths the characters (and readers) will face but I think this adds to the richness of the story.
- Kira is a very smart and easy-to-like heroine. In fact, most of the key young adult characters are multifaceted, richly layered, and given a level of complexity not often found in books for teens. Not all the main characters are likeable....but they are presented in such a way that you can at least understand where they're coming from even if you don't like them very much.
- When the suspense starts, it's action-packed, full of tension, and pretty awesome. It felt cinematic at times....Read more ›
That's pretty much the story here. A group of 'people' (or not) genetically engineered for the sole purpose of fighting wars decide they've had enough, and they release a virus that kills most of the human race. Newborn babies live only days before they die of the virus, so there are no human children under the age of 14. The remaining humans have banded together (on Long Island?) for protection and commence to forcing the kids to make as many babies as they can, in the hopes that eventually some of them will survive.
Nobody seems to consider doing some research on the immune human survivors to find the source of their immunity. Well, nobody until 16-year-old Kira thinks of it. ummmm OK.
Kira is interested in saving humanity but she's also strongly driven by the desire not to be forced into repeated pregnancies resulting in dead babies. That works, but why the heck is everyone else so stupid? After thousands of babies have been born (and died), it seems fairly clear that the approach taken (by the stupid adults) is not going to work.
Eh, OK, it's a YA book. I am 62 so I guess I am not in the target audience. But it just bothers me to see books aimed at teens that are so full of plot holes because this isn't the way to encourage teens to enjoy reading.
(edited on Jan 5) Let me please add that I am not in any way criticizing Mr Wells' talent. In fact I have read and really enjoyed his John Cleaver series. This particular book just didn't click for me. Just my opinion, YMMV, all of the standard caveats apply when reading any review.
The United States created androids, called Partials, to fight a war against the Iranians and Chinese. Once the war was over, the Partials turned on their creators, releasing an airborne virus that kills off all but about 40,000 humans. The virus has also caused all newborn babies to die shortly after birth for the last 11 years. Kira, a 16 year old intern at the hospital, becomes determined to find a cure to this virus after repeatedly witnessing newborn deaths. The Hope Act, a law requiring all women 18 years or older to become pregnant as often as possible, pushes the remaining survivors to the brink of civil war. Kira embarks on a journey to find the Partials, believing their unaffected bodies are the key to curing the virus. After embarking on this mission, what she learns and witnesses can have devastating effects not only on her, but the surviving humans and the Partials themselves.
Almost immediately we are treated to an "adults are stupid, teenagers are rational" mentality. This is a constantly running theme that did not make the book any more enjoyable to read. You are continually reminded that, obviously, only teenagers think outside the box, that only teenagers can provide rational thoughts, that only teenagers are capable of pulling off what the foolish adults brush off as suicide, ridiculous or outrageous. There are many examples of this throughout the book.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A great read with a strong and sympathetic heroine who follows a convincing path to becoming more open minded. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Spineless Reviews
The story had me not wanting to put the book down. The characters felt real and complex. And there are so many different pieces yet left to explore. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Kindle Customer
A fascinating book. I always feel like this series is just a little beyond my understanding, but it covers such interesting issues.Published 12 days ago by Kira Budge
Yes, this is another dystopian story about humans creating robots who then turn against the humans, but it was still interesting and an exciting adventure to read. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Talia L. Jones
Reader thoughts: The ideas intrigued me (new babies don't live past 3 days and the youngest human was 14), the dystopian society had fascinating angles (abundance of leftover... Read morePublished 17 days ago by Denae C
Great story, buried under too many words making it a tedious read. Cut about 20,000-30,000 words and it would be awesome!Published 18 days ago by Az Mama Bear
Just a really excellent post-apocalyptic tale! And our heroine, Kira, a great character with a BIG surprise. Read morePublished 25 days ago by Tim Lumsden
Being a teenager, I thought this book was super good.
Personally, I truly appreciate the presence of so many characters of color. And guess what? Read more
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and couldn't put it down. Many twists and turns. A very gripping story. You won't be disappointedPublished 29 days ago by John K. Gunther